I recently attended an event hosted by BPF and Historic England with my colleague Roger Bowdler. The event was to hear from their representatives, as well as those from The Architectural Fund, the Casual Dining Group and MHCLG on how the £40 million of funding made available to Historic England (a further £15 million has been given to the Architectural Heritage Fund) is to be used to improve the vitality and viability of historic high streets.
Bids close for the funding parcels on 12 July. There are expected to be c. 40 awards, and with a pot of £40 million, the parcels are relatively conservative. Funding awards are expected to be matched by third parties.
Key messages from the presentation and Q&A were perhaps to be anticipated: Historic places attract investment and tourism, Council partnerships will be key to delivery, and funding at the right level is important.
Planning was mentioned but was not at the forefront of discussion. If there had been more time I would have liked to extend the debate to consider how the right mix of land uses can attract commercial investment in combination with the historic environment, and how this can be pre-empted through the partnerships with local Councils.
Issues that remain unclear for me are how Councils will resource their contribution, and whether there will be enough interest from third parties and landowners to take the plunge and match the funding provided in failing town centres. I will be looking out for the announcement of the successful programmes in January 2020.
All over the shop: how can heritage assets help our high streets adapt?